Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From the world of sport science

Greetings from Finland! As a former (or current/honorary Vaker), I've been added to the blog to throw in a little bit of international and sports science perspective. As some of you might already know, after completing my BA at
Gustavus (a little after other Vakers Nate, Nichole and Mel and before Kathleen), I headed to the University of Jyväskylä in Finland to work on my Master's in what is called the Biology of Physical Activity. Somehow or another the MSc snowballed into a research assistantship (in our department, and in part with KIHU because of my thesis topic) and starting work on a PhD (1 class down and years to go!). So far my studies have focused on combined strength and endurance training (because strength training and endurance training produce divergent adaptations, more on that at a later date) and I've been dabbling a bit in endocrinology, we'll see where that goes. I still ski and run (less racing as of late) and have gotten a bit into rowing and orienteering.

The first bit I will contribute here from the world of sport science deals with nutrition and recovery (inspired by a blurb in a recent email from my ski club here). The sports drink and nutritional supplement market is a huge money-maker, but are expensive sports drinks worth it? Supplements and sports drinks can certainly play an important role in an athlete's nutrition/recovery; however, the use of lots of supplements suggests that one does not trust their own nutritional choices (paraphrasing the head coach of the Finnish Natl team as well as my dad here...). A well-balanced and adequate diet that is made up of a variety of foods should be able to reasonably fulfill your daily nutrient requirements and besides that, the bioavailability of nutrients is typically higher in foods than in pills and powders. (The mini disclaimer: some supplements may be necessary, for example, calcium and iron for women...).

A recent study by Kammer et al. 2009 published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that cereal and non-fat milk are as effective in promoting muscle recovery following 2 hours of cycling at 60-65% VO2max.

A quick explanation: Long bouts of endurance exercise deplete muscle glycogen stores (your fuel) and increases the rate of protein synthesis while at the same increasing the rate of protein degradation (which typically exceeds the rate of synthesis). In order for the muscles to recover from endurance exercise (so you can get back out there and do it again), glycogen stores need to be replenished and a positive net protein balanced needs to be achieved. Glucose is needed for glycogen synthesis and amino acids are needed for protein synthesis, so simply put: carbs and protein are needed for recovery.

In this study by Kammer et al., subjects randomly performed two trials after whcih they were given either Wheaties and non-fat milk or a commercially available sports drink. Similar positive results were achieved with cereal and milk as with the commercial recovery drink. This suggests that cereal and milk are an effective recovery food. (A previous study by the same research group concurs).

For more details on these studies, my embedded links should bring you to the articles. Until next time, eat your Wheaties (or insert other whole grain cereal here)!


  1. Hi Ritva! It's good to hear from you. Cheryl DuBois has said the same thing. I've been eating fruit and yogurt or something like that. It tastes better, is more satisfying, and cheaper.

  2. Nice info Ritva. But is pie and ice cream as effective as cereal? How about beer and chips...

  3. Pie (berries = antioxidants), ice cream (dairy!!) , beer (errr... carbohydrates) and chips (more carbs...) all have at least some nutritional value, though I am not sure how much scientific backing they have (i.e. who has gotten the funding to study the effects of peppermint bonbon on muscle recovery....

    Everything in moderation!